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Environment

Single-use plastics out, paper alternatives in

The European Parliament has voted in favour of a ban on single-use plastics, in an effort to reduce the sheer amount of plastic entering our oceans.

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Plastics where no alternatives are available will be reduced by at least 25 percent by 2025

Single-use plastic items like cutlery, cotton buds, straws and stirrers make up a staggering 70 percent of marine litter, and yesterday the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour to ban these items from the EU market from 2021. MEPs have also added products made of oxo-degradable plastics such as bags or packaging. The new ban will see packaging and production companies forced to reassess the kinds of materials they are using to package products and potentially look to less harmful, paper alternatives.

EU Parliament rapporteur Frédérique Ries comments: “We have adopted the most ambitious legislation against single-use plastics. It is up to us now to stay the course in the upcoming negotiations with the Council, due to start as early as November. Today’s vote paves the way to a forthcoming and ambitious directive. It is essential in order to protect the marine environment and reduce the costs of environmental damage attributed to plastic pollution in Europe, estimated at 22 billion euros by 2030.”

 It is essential in order to protect the marine environment and reduce the costs of environmental damage attributed to plastic pollution in Europe

Whilst this is good news for Europe, there have been calls on the UK Government to commit to this ban, despite what may happen with Britain and the EU next year. Just three days ago, news came that microplastics have made their way into human stool samples, which is not surprising considering scientists in Belgium have calculated that shellfish lovers could be consuming up to 11,000 plastic fragments in their seafood each year. In 2017, researchers from Plymouth University reported that plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish meaning that plastic has well and truly made its way in to the human food chain. 

Ries drafted the report which was adopted with 571 votes to 53 and 34 abstentions. The report also focused on reducing waste from cigarette butts and lost fishing gear, the latter making up 27 percent of waste found on the continent’s beaches. Making producers more accountable was a key part of the report, ensuring that manufacturers cover the costs of waste collection and meet recycling targets.

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